How Wine Writers See the World—In Graph and Chart
I have since I first started to get to know them when I began working with them as a publicist back in the day. I didn’t know what to expect of them at first. But they turned out to often be very intelligent, curious, dedicated, interesting people. I was and am fascinated at how they dig so deep into what often seems like a banal subject. The best of them were writers and reporters first, with wine lover being a close second. It makes for a unique combination.
My recently released 2018 American Wine Writer Survey isn’t paean to the wine writer, however. It’s merely a reflection of my interest in how the American wine media works and thinks. When I conducted my first Wine Writer Survey in 1994 I wanted to know more about the people I so often worked with as I promoted and communicated on behalf of my clients in the wine industry. How these people work and think is still the purpose of the Wine Writer Survey.
Among the most interesting findings of the new survey is the way in which American wine writers think about various issues of concern to the wine industry: climate change, gender discrimination, natural wine.
On the issue of climate change, the overwhelming majority of respondents (70%) believe climate change will “Fundamentally change viticulture worldwide”. A mere 1% of survey-takers said it is “unlikely to have much impact on grapegrowing”. It will be the wine writing corps that chronicles any significant changes to the character of regional wines resulting from climate change. It appears they have their eyes wide open, ready to observe how this change to our environment will impact wine drinkers and winemakers.
The question of natural wine provokes a more diverse set of responses from wine writers. They were asked to choose from a series of statements in identifying their view of natural wine. The key takeaway is the difference in views of natural wine based on the age of the writer responding. The younger the writer, the more favorable their view of these wines and the more likely that they see them as important to the consumer. Older writers have a more jaundiced view of the category with 50% of those respondents 50 years of age or older saying Natural Wine will have little or no impact on consumers or that it is little more than a deceptive marketing tactic. On the other hand, no respondent 40 or under described Natural Wine as a deceptive marketing tactic.
Finally the survey uncovers that wine writers’ views on sexism in the wine industry are dependent upon their age and gender. The older they are the less likely a writer is to believe sexism is “deeply embedded in the wine industry”. Males are less likely to believe it is deeply embedded. Young female writers believe by a margin of 57% that sexism is “deeply embedded in the wine industry.” This is significant since younger wine writers skew significantly female. What does it mean? From the perspective of wine writing expect to see many more stories in the future of the question of gender equality in the wine industry.
One question in the survey illuminates quite a bit: Would you recommend wine writing as a career? Only 40% of respondents said “yes”. Women, however, responded “yes” to the tune of 47%—nearly half. This is important because, again, the younger writers skew significantly female.
The very good and the very best wine writers in the United States sacrifice something for choosing wine writing. They toil in a career that does not pay well and that has become more of a struggle over the past two decades. Each of the very good and very best could probably easily take their demonstrable talents to another industry and created a better living for themselves. And yet here they are. While I sometimes question their decision making on this score, I love them for their decision to write about wine.